With the launch of the Albanese government’s ‘Biodiversity Certificates’ scheme, it seems the market is left with more questions than answers. 

On the surface, the aim of the scheme is to support farmers and landholders when they restore or manage local habitat, support will come in the form of ‘biodiversity certificates’, which can be traded. 

Funding biodiversity protection is important, especially given the poor state of the environment as shown in the government’s latest scorecard

“Our market will be open to all land managers – whether they’re farmers, people interested in conservation or Indigenous land managers.” says PM Anthony Albanese.

“This is a chance to support farmers using their knowledge and expertise in a way that benefits us all – a chance to shape a better future.”

But if certificates can be purchased by those seeking to offset habitat destruction in another area, then the ecological economics may not be as green. 

The carbon offset market offers an obvious parallel, but in Australia the integrity of the trading system was brought into question by Andrew Macintosh, the former head of the government’s Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee turned whistleblower.

Professor Macintosh conceded a national biodiversity scheme was needed, but as yet, it wasn’t clear if the government’s scheme would operate as an offset system, or if certificates would only be available to not-for-profits, philanthropists and corporations wanting to support biodiversity protection. 

The carbon offset (ACCU) market is currently being investigated by a government taskforce led by Ian Chubb, and Polly Hemming, senior researcher at the Australia Institute, questions whether we should wait for those findings to be tabled.

“Australia Institute research and independent experts suggests that up to 80% of the carbon credits circulating in Australia are of low integrity. The Government announcement makes no reference to the fact that this scheme and its governance is currently under review and that Professor Ian Chubb is yet to report his findings.” Pally says. 

“The decision that this scheme will be overseen by the same regulatory body that is currently being investigated for its failure to regulate Australia’s carbon credits system seems particularly reckless.”

Market design is fluid and can evolve, but what’s certain is that loss of native habitat and biodiversity needs to be stopped.

“Nature in Australia is in serious trouble, so we need to halt the ongoing destruction and restore degraded landscapes to health,” said ACF’s nature campaign manager Basha Stasak.

“A well-designed biodiversity certificates scheme could be good for nature, but a badly designed scheme could facilitate the destruction of more precious wildlife habitat. It will be important for the scheme to provide genuine, verifiable environmental outcomes and deliver a net-gain for biodiversity.”

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